RIDE 2011: Student dropout – the elephant in the room of distance education (Alan Woodley and Ormond Simpson)


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Slides from presentation at Research in Distance Education 2011 conference, held on 26 October 2011: "Student dropout – the elephant in the room of distance education" (Alan Woodley and Ormond Simpson). More details can be found at www.cde.london.ac.uk.

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  • Student dropout – the elephant in the room of distance education - a dialogue between Alan Woodley and Ormond Simpson.There is a largely unacknowledged elephant in the distance education room – the elephant of student dropout.#
  • 2.There are many ways to measure student retention, but I think that overall graduation rates are the best final measure. But not many institutions publish them. Here are some that we’ve been able to find.Graduation rates for full time students in UK universities are around 82%. Part-time students do less well at 39%. London University International Programme which are partly conventional and partly distance, are somewhere between at 44%. But the distance universities are obviously much lower – sometimes in single figure percentages. One of the most aggressively marketed distance institutions the University of Phoenix is rumoured to have about 6% retention. For the OU gradation rates have been dropping almost ever since it was founded#
  • 3. These graphs show the cumulative rate of graduation by year of entry in the 70’s and 80’s when OU graduation rates were considerably higher. So graduation rates have been dropping for some years, now apparently down to 22%. #
  • 4. These are the actual numbers of students graduating up to a couple of years ago, suggesting that the downward trend may be continuing. #
  • Most of this dropout is actually on the first course of an OU programme# Using a logistic binary regression analysis of previous student results we can now attach a ‘predicted probability of success’ to all new OU students. This prediction depends largely on the student’s age, sex, previous education and course choice, although other factors come into it as well. #This prediction each year usually varies from the highest chance of success of around 85% to the lowest chance of success of 9% and this graph shows the distribution of this figure amongst the 50,000 students who entered the OU a couple of years ago. As you can see most students have only a 60% chance of passing their first course module. Add other dropout rates on later course modules it’s easy to see why the graduation rate is so low.By the way these predictions are surprisingly accurate.#
  • 6. This shows the prediction versus the actual outcomes. You can see there is excellent agreement except at very low pass rates – we don’t know why that should be. So what are the effects of this dropout?#
  • 7. This graph shows that students who drop out from full-time UK universities have a higher probability of depression, unemployment and (for women) suffering partner violence, than students who graduated or didn’t go to university at all. The subsequent cost to UK society of treating depression and paying for unemployment must be in billions of pounds. Do we know the effects of dropping out from distance education? #
  • 8. So why do students drop out? Anderson (2003) believed that motivation was the key to student success and that “Most students dropout because of reduced motivation”. If you got the motivation sorted, everything else would follow.Now this isn’t a startling insight I guess – if you asked any number of teachers they’d agree on the importance of motivation. What was new to me was Anderson’s suggestion that there might be some way to build a student’s learning motivation. I guess all teachers do try to build their students motivation to some extent – usually by exhortation and example. But what Anderson seemed to be suggesting was that there were more effective ways of doing it. The other thing that Anderson said was #
  • 9. If you wanted to make a difference to student retention you had to be proactive. It was no use waiting for students to come to you – you had to reach out to them.#
  • 10. We have some evidence for the success of proactively reaching out in the UKOU’s Proactive Student Support Project which made a single proactive phone call to new students at the start of their course. We used the predicted probability system to generate two groups with identical probability of success and got a 5% increase in retention for just one phone call.#
  • 11.. There’s evidence that using emails can have the same effect#
  • 14 - the elephant in the distance education room.End
  • RIDE 2011: Student dropout – the elephant in the room of distance education (Alan Woodley and Ormond Simpson)

    1. 1. Student dropout – the elephant in the room of distance education Alan Woodley and Ormond Simpson 1
    2. 2. Graduation rates - distance education and conventional educationConventional education institutions Distance education institutions 2
    3. 3. Cumulative OU graduation rates (%) by year of entry7060 1971 - 59%50 1976 - 51% 1981 - 48%4030 1994 - 22%20100 1971 1977 1983 1992 1998 2004 1974 1980 1986 1989 1995 2001 2007 1971 entry 1976 entry 1981 entry 3
    4. 4. 4
    5. 5. EId = Early Identification of vulnerable students „Binary regression analysis‟ - calculates a „predicted probability of success‟ for every student.number of students in band 14000 12000 10000 8000 6000 4000 2000 0 0-10 11-20 21-30 31-40 41-50 51-60 61-70 71-80 81-90 91- 100 predicted probability of success band 5
    6. 6. EId = Early Identification - accuracy908070605040302010 0 0-10 10-20 20-30 30-40 40-50 50-60 60-70 70-80 80-90 90- 100 predicted probability of success % actual success rate % 6
    7. 7. What happens to students who dropout? - effects of dropout on full-time students in the UK Probability of: dropoutsProbability of suffering depression, unemployment and (women) partner violence, according to educational experience (Bynner, 2002) 7
    8. 8. Importance of learning motivation“The best predictor of studentretention is motivation. Retentionservices need to clarify and build onmotivation and address motivation-reducing issues.“Most students dropout because ofreduced motivation”(Anderson, 2003) 8
    9. 9. Proactive Contact„Student self-referral does not work as amode of promoting persistence. Studentswho need services the most referthemselves the least.“Effective retention services take theinitiative in outreach and timelyinterventions with those students.‟(Anderson, US) 9 9
    10. 10. Results of the UKOU‟s Proactive Student Support (PaSS) Project Year Students in Increase in retention of trial experimental group over control (% points) 2002 2866 3.9% 2003 1354 5.1% 2004 931 4.2% 2005 10,131 7.6% Totals 5151 5.04% 02-04 10
    11. 11. Retention increases using motivational emails Study Method Increase in completionSimpson Motivational 18.9% emailsTwyford Motivational 11.7% emails Huett Motivational 23.4% emails 11
    12. 12. Attitudes to student retention 1 The „Darwinistas‟Students drop out because theyre not intelligent enough, unmotivated or lazy. “We‟re here to weed out the unfit” 12
    13. 13. Attitudes to student retention 2 The FatalistasStudents dropout for reasons beyond our control“Students are doomed to pass or fail and there‟s not much we can do about it” 13
    14. 14. Thank you! 14